Do you have a pivotal point in your history that set you on a course for the rest of your life? I do.
It was at a Thanksgiving dinner in 1963. I was with my family at my Aunt’s house. There were my parents and the four of us girls. There were five in my Aunt and Uncle’s family, and there was another couple whom I don’t remember.
Thirteen people all crammed into the living/dining room of a modern split-level ranch home. The kind of home where the sofa, chair seats, and lamps had plastic slipcovers. A football game was on in the living room. The women were working in the kitchen. Since I was only 12, I wasn’t considered one of the adults yet, so I was not allowed in the kitchen. I was told instead to watch the babies….which really meant to keep them from falling down the stairs.
I’d been at it for a while, when I heard my youngest cousin crying. I didn’t remember losing track of him, and hurried to find him. He had crawled into the living room and as I entered to fetch him, I saw that he was sitting right at the foot of my Uncle’s lounger and disturbing the football game with his bawling.
My uncle hadn’t seen me yet, and from his throne, with his feet up and a cold beer in his hand, he looked over the arm of his lounger, down at the distraught infant, and bellowed to my harried aunt, “Gloria! Come get this goddamned kid!”
I knew she was busy trying to get dinner on the table, and for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why he didn’t just reach down and pick the baby up.
My aunt dropped everything, hustled into the living room, and apologizing profusely, she snatched the baby up and took him down the hall to change his soggy diaper.
In that instant I understood everything about their lives and their relationship. Standing there frozen in place, mouth hanging open in disbelief, I decided conclusively, “I will never live like this!”
And “this” encompassed a lot. It included not having more than one child. Living in the suburbs. Being in servitude to someone else. Never having to deal with an angry, beer-guzzling man. Or ever having a lounge chair.
So while everyone else is celebrating Thanksgiving as the traditional blessing of the harvest, I’m celebrating the blessing of that wake-up call so many years ago. I’ve stayed true to all of those decisions, and I am grateful for the way my life turned out. I’m especially grateful for all of the family, friends, and friends-who-have-become-family, that I’ve been blessed with.
May you all have a delightful Thanksgiving with your loved ones!
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